Depression is on the rise in India and those working in the fast paced corporate sector are susceptible to its depredations. Last year, the apex trade association Assocham India reported that 42.5% of employees in the private sector are afflicted with depression or general anxiety orders. The study cited increasingly demanding schedules and high stress levels as the underlying cause behind these figures. Delhi was cited as having the highest number of depressed and stressed employees.
There is a fair chance that someone at your workplace suffers from depression (it could even be you). However, being vigilant also means being able to identify and pinpoint the difference between a low or stressful phase and clinical depression.
Listing some of the symptoms of clinical depression at workplace, Dr Samir Parikh, Director, Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Fortis Healthcare said, “If any of these behavioural changes are observed taking place for well over a fortnight, your colleague (or you) might benefit from a mental health check-up or some counselling.”
The symptoms mentioned by Dr Parikh included:
- Loss of focus over an extended period of time
- A huge change in appetite, such as a steep decline or binge-eating
- A dip in energy levels, drive and motivation
- Extreme sensitivity to criticism, while becoming overtly critical of others
- Snappiness and irritability
- Lack of socialising and mingling: no coffee or tea breaks with other employees or friends, and
forced or insincere smiles
- Inability to take decisions
- Complaints about physical exhaustion and body pain
According to Dr Prakriti Poddar of Mumbai-based Poddar Foundation, which specialises in mental health care, often well-meaning friends and family feel that their support and communication will be enough to guide a depressed person out of his or her condition. “They are not trained to assist the depressant back to strength. You can encourage them to seek help, to stick with the prescribed therapy, and allow them to feel your faith in them in their ability to heal,” she says. “This is invaluable and more than enough.”
Mental experts have suggested a few things you can do to help a colleague (or yourself):
1. Be calm: “It is important for you to not get anxious or stressed,” says Dr Parikh. “If you get worked up, you’re not in any position to help a colleague who is in distress.”
2. Share a story: “You may not have too many stressful stories of your own to share. But sharing any experience can pave the way to a conversation, which helps,” advises Dr Era Dutta, consultant psychiatrist, SL Raheja Fortis Hospital, Mahim, Mumbai.
3. Stay alert. Be on the alert for signs of any suicidal tendencies. “All dangerous items that are potentially harmful including sharp objects, pills and poisonous substances need to be removed,” says Dr Parikh.
4. Never say: “Get on with it. This is life!” “This could send them spiralling further,” says Dr Poddar, likening this approach to rubbing salt on the wound. Be supportive instead of confusing them further about their vulnerable state – depression is not something they can help.
5. Respect their wishes: Space is important. “Your colleague may need a time-out every now and then, so don’t be over intrusive,” says Dr Dutta. “Sometimes one can find solace in being alone.”
6. Be around. If your colleague lives alone, try to ensure someone is around after work hours. “Being alone often spurs the condition,” says Dr Poddar.
7. Don’t get hurt or affronted easily. Always remember that you are helping out, so if the depressed individual lashes out at you, don’t take it personally, or list it as unprofessional behaviour. “It’s the depression talking, not your colleague, so don’t give up on them,” says Dr Dutta.
8. Take them to see an expert. If you can eventually cajole them into seeing an expert, do so. Especially if you observe them doing things such as harming themselves, drinking excessively or not taking regular medication, says Dr Poddar.
9. Motivation works. Encourage them (gently) to take up activities that they enjoyed doing in the past, says Dr Dutta. Also alert your employer, but in a careful manner so that your colleague doesn’t feel threatened.